Camp operators to use body cameras in high-element outdoor activities after death of ACS(I) student

The technology will allow operators to watch in real time and communicate to instructors if they detect any lapses.
The technology will allow operators to watch in real time and communicate to instructors if they detect any lapses.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The Outdoor Learning and Adventure Education Association (OLAE) has urged its members to do more to enhance the level of safety in high-element outdoor activities following  recent accidents involving such activities in schools. 

Lye Yen Kai, president of the body that represents more than 20 operators of camp and enrichment programmes here, said the most common causes of mishaps are poor equipment, human error and instructors or participants not following the correct procedures.

On Wednesday (Feb 17), Ed-Venture Collective, which comprises four camp operators, Character & Leadership Academy, FutuReady Asia, Innotrek and the School of Outdoor Learning, inked a memorandum of understanding with technology firm OMG Solutions to pilot the use of body cameras during adventure activities on their campsites.

Besides functioning as a training tool, the technology will allow operators to watch in real time from a remote location and communicate to instructors on the ground if they detect any lapses. The footage can also be reviewed in the event of an accident to determine what went wrong.

While OLAE will not make the use of such cameras mandatory for all members, Lye said it will consider implementing sanctions in the future against operators that flout safety protocols.

He noted: “As an industry, we are small and thus we have constant dialogue between all operators to see how our practices can be improved.

“Having a body camera is not the only way. We are also discussing among ourselves having increased manpower on the ground during activities and encouraging more of our members to have trainers gain the required external certification from ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology) or OBS (Outward Bound Singapore).

“We leave it up to the vendors to make the call because it is difficult to implement a one size fits all policy. Essentially, we want vendors to minimise the likelihood and severity of accidents.” 

High-element outdoor activities have come under scrutiny after Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student Jethro Puah died following an incident at Safra Yishun on Feb 3. All schools have suspended outdoor activities involving heights following the incident, and police investigations are ongoing.

In February last year, a girl from Concord Primary School in Choa Chu Kang had fallen while doing a zipline activity in the school as part of her co-curricular activity. Additional protocols were put in place by the Ministry of Education to make the activity safer at all schools since Jan 5. 

Delane Lim, founder of FutuReady Asia said the recent incidents had accelerated its plans to use cameras during activities. 

He added: “It may not become an industry practice but we want to do more to enhance safety during activities and gain the confidence of the public.” 

Other vendors are focusing on retraining staff. Mike Lim, director for Innotrek, said all his staff underwent refresher courses in the last month and the company also bought a JAG rescue kit, which is designed to easily pick off and lower a participant who is stuck during a course. It had previously used a more traditional and labour intensive method, the Z-pulley system, for rescue operations. 

He said: “It was important for us to tell staff that you can never be too sure of what to do when something goes wrong in a campsite.

“We (vendors) have to step up and show that we are doing all we can to be as safe as possible. The last thing we want is for the authorities to put a blanket ban on private vendors as a result of these incidents.”